The Queenstown Lakes District Council 2020 Quality of Life Survey Report revealed 79% of respondents with children under 15 were unsure of mental health support services for children.

Child support service providers range from counsellors, social workers, early childhood providers, nurses and psychologists.

Last week , a group of professional child support providers from across the country gathered in Wanaka to continue their training in play therapy.

Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT) is a form of counselling for children aged 3 to 12, focused on utilising play to assist children in processing challenging circumstances or emotions.

The CCPT training workshops were run by ChildPlay Works (CPW) and held in Wanaka and Cambridge.

CPW programme developer and trainer Judi Jacobsen said the decision to come to Wanaka came about after local professionals working with children requested additional support and training.

“There is a strong professional play therapy presence in Wanaka with Frankie Dean and Natalie Astin [local play therapists and CPW Graduates] providing CCPT services for local children,” Ms Jacobsen said.

There has also been wonderful community support too, with some generous funding given for local children to receive play therapy, she said.

“CCPT is an excellent form of therapy because it is based in their natural world of communication, which is play. There’s a growing awareness that play therapy is a natural and safe world for children to communicate in and process difficulties in their lives,” Ms Jacobsen said

She said through the child-centred approach, the symbolic world of play allows children to safely process deep trauma, which they would never be able to verbalise.

They express what they need to in their world of play alongside a fully›trained play therapist, she said.

CPW programme developer and trainer Megan Longman said the development of trust between child and therapist was a key element that enabled a child to go to deeper places while feeling safe and supported.

“If they are required to communicate through talking, children leave their natural creative world of play and move to their pre›frontal cortex where talking about their trauma can further re›traumatise,” Ms Longman said.

CCPT is a non›directed process (child›led), non›invasive and does not re›traumatise.

Those in the training programme were required to hold a base qualification in a relevant field, as well as a membership for a professional association such as New Zealand Association of Counsellors, Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers or Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand.